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"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Mount Rushmore: “America's Shrine”

“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can...their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were.” ~Gutzon Borglum

Mount Rushmore, the world's largest stone monument, is a tribute to four Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. These four presidents were all great patriots who stood for the most honorable principles and highest ideals of America. Do you know what else each of these men have in common? As children, none of them had any regular, formal schooling. They were all self-educated or taught at home! So you might even say that Mount Rushmore is a monument to homeschoolers!

George Washington Biography

Thomas Jefferson Biography

Abraham Lincoln Biography

Theodore Roosevelt Biography

Mount Rushmore is a granite cliff located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is 6,000 feet above sea level, 1000 feet long, 450 feet wide, and 300 feet high. Carved into the southeast face of the mountain are the four largest statues in the world. They are the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

The distance from the top of Washington’s head to the tip of his chin is 60 feet. If his whole body had been carved and if it were in the same proportions as the head, he would be 465 feet tall – as tall as a skyscraper. The other statues are just as big. A man could stand upright in the eye of any one of them. You can recognize their faces from about twenty miles away.

Historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, Robinson persuaded Gutzon Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to ensure that the carving could be accomplished. Borglum, an American sculptor who liked to work on large statues, had been involved in sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving, a massive bas-relief memorial to Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain in Georgia.

Gutzon Borglum first made a small model of each of the faces to use as a guide in carving the large heads. In 1925 he persuaded President Calvin Coolidge and the U.S. Congress to vote him enough money to pay for carving the faces in the mountain. President Coolidge insisted on portraying George Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat. The selected presidents were chosen because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory during the first 150 years of the history of the United States.

Work on the memorial began in 1927 and continued for 14 years. About 400 workmen helped Borglum carve the four faces into the hard stone. Borglum and his assistants hung down from the top of the cliff on slings and scaffolds. They shaped the rock by blasting out sections of rock using dynamite, and carved the rock with compressed-air drills. For finishing touches the sculptors also used picks, chisels, and hammers. Notably for a project of such size, no workers were killed in accidents during the construction.

Borglum died in 1941 and the project was taken over by his son, Lincoln Borglum. Insufficient funding forced the carving to end just before the great statues were finished. Europe was at war and the money was needed in case the U.S. was forced to enter the conflict. Just thirty-seven days after work stopped on the monument, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial park includes over 1,200 acres of land surrounding the monument. Maintenance of Mount Rushmore requires mountain climbers to monitor and seal cracks annually. Mount Rushmore was cleaned once, in 2005, with pressurized water. Today, Mount Rushmore is South Dakota’s number one tourist attraction. See:

“We are not here trying to carve an epic, portray a moonlight scene, or write a sonnet; neither are we dealing with mystery or tragedy, but rather the constructive and dramatic moments…in our amazing history.” ~Gutzon Borglum


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Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
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